Nothing says money thrown out the window like your toddler's school clothes after a particularly messy day of arts and crafts.
I've already counseled against going too fancy when you dress your kids for school, but you can still send them out the door in something new without worrying if it's wash and wear.
You've got to learn to love the smock:
1. An Adult's T-Shirt
Why It Works: It's cheap, you don't usually care what happens to it at the end of the day, and it covers almost every inch of their body.
Drawbacks: If your child is wearing long sleeves, there's almost an arm's worth of fabric exposed and just waiting to be covered in paint. Something particularly wet can soak through.
Where to Find One: The back of your closet, or an arts and crafts store. With the latter, go for white -- by the end of the year, it will be covered in a dizzying array of colors that's a piece of art in and of itself.
2. An Adult Button-Down Shirt Worn Backward
Why It Works: Just about all of their clothes are covered.
Drawbacks: They can be hard for kids to put on themselves, and the long sleeves can be more of a hazard than anything -- they have to be rolled up by a teacher. Unless you have an extra hanging around in the back of the closet, they're a little more expensive. Something particularly wet can soak through.
Where to Find One: Your closet, a department store, or if you're lucky, the local thrift shop.
3. Plastic Smock With Sleeves
Why It Works: The plastic keeps even the wettest mess from soaking through to their clothes, and the sleeves are just their size -- so you get the coverage without the risk of them being dragged in paint to spread it elsewhere. They can also be used when eating particularly messy foods.
Drawbacks: They're more expensive, so you care if your child forgets it at pre-school at the end of the year. Then again, they're not massively expensive.
Where to Find One: ALEX Toys sent one to The Stir recently that's the best I've found so far -- you can get it on Amazon for $11. Beware: The plastic stinks something awful when you first open it!
4. Child's Apron
Why It Works: It's just their size, so you don't deal with the trip hazard of an over-sized t-shirt. It can also be used in the kitchen when school is done, allowing you to save money by pulling double duty.
Drawbacks: Wet messes can soak through, and there's no coverage for their sleeves. They're slightly more expensive.
Where to Find One: Etsy is a great destination. I love this "future artist" version at CarolinaKiddo's for $15.
Do you make your kids wear a smock?
Image via Amazon